William Eichler 12 September 2018

Children with mental health issues face youth services ‘black hole’

Three-quarters of young people looking for support for mental health issues become more unwell before they can access treatment, charity reveals.

A new report from the charity YoungMinds warns it is ‘far too difficult’ for young people with emerging mental health problems to get the help they need because of inadequate access to clinical treatment.

It also warns of a ‘black hole’ in local youth services.

A YoungMinds survey of more than 2,000 parents and carers whose children have looked for mental health support found 76% of parents said their children’s mental health had deteriorated while waiting for support from Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).

Around 86% of parents whose children had waited more than six months for CAMHS said their children’s mental health had deteriorated. 64% said their children’s mental health had deteriorated a lot.

Two-thirds (69%) of parents said that neither they nor their children had been signposted to any other form of support during the time they were waiting for support from CAMHS.

‘We hear every day from young people who have been left waiting for support while their problems have got worse. Some tell us that they’ve started to self-harm, become suicidal, or dropped out of school because they can’t get the help they need,’ said Emma Thomas, chief executive of YoungMinds.

‘The crisis in young people’s mental health is real and it’s urgent. With the NHS Long Term Plan imminent, we cannot afford to miss the opportunity to build a system equipped to meet growing demand.

‘Crucially we also need to invest in new ways for young people to get help early on, before they require more specialist treatment. Every community must have spaces where young people can go to feel safe, work through how they’re feeling, and learn strategies to help them manage and start to feel better.’

Councils have been forced to cut spending on local youth services from £650m in 2010/11 to just £390m in 2016/17 as a result of Government funding cuts.

This has resulted in more than 600 youth centres closing and nearly 139,000 youth service places lost in the UK between 2012 and 2016.

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